City Paper is not for tourists
Writer-director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang owes Sofia Coppola a story credit for Ploy, a Bangkok-set drama about—stop me if you’ve heard this before—a lonely middle-aged man and a young girl, whose chance meeting at a hotel underscores the unhappiness of a marriage. Ploy‘s Lost in Translation crux isn’t so melancholic or chaste, however, surrounded as it is by subplots involving violence and steamy sex. Ratanaruang’s gimmick is that some of it may just be the results of his jet-lagged characters’ dreams, which can be interesting during the story’s menacing turns but seems irritatingly gratuitous when it comes to, say, a random hotel maid and bartender getting it on. The central couple is former movie star Dang (Lalita Panyopas) and restaurateur Wit (Pornwut Sarasin), who travel from America to Thailand for a funeral. While Dang tries to sleep, Wit goes down to the brightest hotel bar in the world for cigarettes, which is where he meets the 19-year-old, skimpily dressed Ploy (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), who’s killing a few hours waiting for her mother’s flight to arrive. Obviously possessing no sense, Wit invites the girl up to his room to chill without telling Dang, who’s already suspicious of him after finding a woman’s number in his coat pocket. Quiet fury ensues. Panyopas is a marvel as a woman who’s simultaneously pissed, mournful, yet too conditioned to politeness to take her anger out on strangers. As the story’s focus switches to Dang, it becomes a study not only on jealousy but also the sense one can lose when a love affair goes sour. The film is best when it’s provocative thoughtfully and not physically, though ultimately the latter is just a minor distraction.